Breathe a sigh of relief Fitz/Simmons fans; Jemma Simmons was not Whedoned this episode despite a heart stopping tease. After a one week Halloween week hiatus, Agents of SHIELD has returned with a nice character-driven episode that fleshed out the cast’s motivations and delved deeper into their relationships.
The opening of the episode had me fooled a bit as when SHIELD investigates a floating corpse; my Marvel Zombie ass assumed it was the triumphant debut of a fully powered Graviton. That particular Marvel baddie must wait, as the floating dead was caused by a Chituari virus, a welcome little tendril that uncoiled from the Avengers’ Battle of New York. This is more like it, a narrative extension of the cinematic Marvel Universe where the consequences of the events of the films do not stop when the credits roll.
Coulson and company solve the mystery of the floating corpse pretty quickly, finding a group of firefighters that were present for Loki’s invasion infected with the alien virus. Coulson, in a great moment, assures a dying fireman that he will find the afterlife beautiful, a moment that adds to the intrigue of Coulson’s resurrection. As the Agents take the helmet aboard the Bus, things really heat up.
The narrative stumbles a bit as the first half of the episode establishes Fitz’s fear of biological infection, so viewers just knew someone was getting infected sooner rather than later. By tipping its pitches, the show lost a bit of surprise and drama as later Simmons contracts the Chituari virus that is essentially a death sentence. As Simmons desperately looks for a cure, Fitz and Simmons are both left pondering the idea of mortality in a world where gods literally walk the Earth. Their tenderness and desperation was pretty touching stuff despite the heavy-handed foreshadowing. The drama really amps up as Coulson is ordered to drop Simmons out of the Bus, as when the virus kills her, it will result in a violent explosion. Coulson, who must constantly question his mortality, refuses to act and remains confident in his Agents’ ability to cure Simmons. This are the types of moments where the show must be careful as fans could be left asking in this tense moment why Coulson is not calling Tony Stark or Bruce Banner to help his Agent, but as long as the Agents keep solving their own problems this is a moot point.
After Simmons and Fitz fail to find a cure, the show probably has its most gut wrenching scene to date. Joss Whedon fans are very familiar with Simmons’ character type; she is the cutesy genius, the Willow/Fred/Kaylee character that Whedon fans have grown to embrace. Simmons adds a human element of likability to the world, and seeing her willingly let herself be sucked out of an airplane was some damn gripping television. A scene which led to the most superheroic moment of the show to date, as the usually kind of boring Agent Ward does his best Steve Rogers impression and plunges after her with the actual antidote in tow. It’s a great action piece centered on a character that fans want to see succeed. Ward saves Simmons, Coulson remains suspicious of the nature of his resurrection, and Ward seems more like a proper Marvel hero rather than a robotic blank. Good stuff all around as Marvel fans will soon turn their attention to Thor this weekend. Can’t wait to see how that new chapter plays out on ABC in the weeks to come.
As for Agent May, she interrogates a prisoner using cookies, it’s rather brilliant actually.
Marvel Moments: a comparison between Captain America and the Dude from the Big Lebowski, and I never thought I’d type that sentence; the Chituari threat continues in a very different way; Coulson’s zinger “But you don’t have to call me Iron Man.”